Central Market faces a green rebirth

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am


Urban Renewal Authority project's theme is 'Central Oasis'

The Central Market, which ceased to operate in March 2003, is one of the oldest heritage landmarks in Hong Kong. Built in 1939, the four-storey market was given grade three historical building status in 1990.

In his 2009-10 policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen proposed a new initiative called 'Conserving Central' in order to achieve a balance between development and conservation. As part of this programme, the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) was given the task of revitalising the Central Market. The URA proposed 'Central Oasis' as the theme of the project, and said it hoped to introduce more greenery and facilities for the public.

A Central Oasis community advisory committee, comprising members from the academic, professional, private and public sectors, was set up to supervise the consultation process.

Visit www.centraloasis.org.hk for more information

Public wants leisure/recreational facilities and green space

In February last year, the committee commissioned an independent survey to gather public opinion about how best to use the site.

Leisure and recreational venues or facilities were the first or second choice of 62 per cent of the 6,238 respondents; 56 per cent wanted a public green area; and 50 per cent proposed cultural and arts-related venues or facilities.

Only 30 per cent wanted dining and shopping outlets to be a priority.

Final design will take in most-popular features from first round

Four architectural consultants were invited to create 3-D conceptual designs that took the public's preferences into consideration.

The designs were displayed in a travelling exhibition in the city last month. Visitors were surveyed about the four designs, and the final design will combine their favourite features.

The four draft designs the public saw

Central Gateway, by Aedas

This proposal keeps the overall structural framework, except that the concrete wall will become a green wall of plants with a water system. The interior will house a cultural store and a marketplace featuring green products. There is a roof garden, a cafe and a jogging path. An interesting feature of the design is its attempt to enhance the connection to the Mid-Levels escalator and the neighbouring streets.

'Through a ramp system, the raised escalator network is connected to the ground level, creating a seamless pathway that takes people through the building,' says Aedas director Cary Lau King-hong. 'At the street level, some walls will be removed to open the building up to neighbouring streets.

'The design, which combines connectivity, community and conservation, can help alleviate the present congestion for pedestrians.'

Urban Cocoon, by Barrie Ho Architecture Interiors

As the name suggests, Urban Cocoon borrows the concept of the transformation of a butterfly and converts the old market into a 'City Health Station'. The lower floors house a multipurpose amphitheatre and a big cultural store, while the 24-hour Green Deck on the top floor has a jogging and cycling path.

The extended upper floor has a Green Techno Trail incorporating technology such as solar panels and wind turbines. This allows the public, especially youngsters, to see green technology at work. Another unique feature is the Butterfly Cone, which provides a home for local species of butterflies.

'The concept is to introduce a station for physical and mental recuperation to the busy and commercial Central district,' says Barrie Ho Chow-lai, the firm's founder and director.

Inspired by our Heritage, by TFP Farrells

In this design, the original complex looks almost the same as before, with modifications made only to enhance building standards and public safety. Each floor has a different use: public space, cuisine, culture, and leisure. There is an observation deck on the roof.

'Our aim has not been to impose a new, dramatic design feature ... but to allow the vision and simplicity of the design produced by the original architects to speak for itself. Our distribution of functions at every level reflects the vertical nature and variety of functions that are a key characteristic of Hong Kong's commercial and social fabric,' says project designer Darren Maryon.

'The three-storey building that encircles the internal courtyard space provides a sound barrier. This enables us to create a quiet and tranquil space within the heart of Central.'

UFO and the New Marketplace, by AGC Design

The UFO (Urban Floating Oasis) design includes organic farming and markets on the roof. Other floors feature a dai pai dong and restaurants, an exhibition area, a gymnasium and a swimming pool.

'In a public forum, an old lady suggested that we should build a swimming pool for young people. We found her idea valid, because there is no public pool near the area,' says Vincent Ng Wing-shun, director of the company.

'Our design was driven by the general consensus of the returned questionnaires ... Hong Kong people want more greenery and public amenities.

'The UFO design is a new marketplace where local products are sold and local artists can hold exhibitions, and this reflects the true characteristics of Hong Kong.'